Sunday, September 8, 2019

Some background for a topic in Hope's Daughter

It was an unusual choice for me. It’s a sensitive subject and I know it used to be something to hide, or about which to feel shame. In the time period of my book, it was known as Mongoloidism, or Mongolism, or a whole host of various other, often degrading, names.

In my experience people don’t (and shouldn’t) hide it. Children who would have been institutionalized in the past are now reared to contribute to society and lead happy and productive lives.

I realize I am oversimplifying what is a major issue in many families. I do not mean to hurt anyone’s feelings. But I wanted to look on the bright side, to the families who made the bold decision to raise their children with Down Syndrome (not commonly called that until the sixties) right in front of everyone.

Maybe it’s a lesson I learned from my daughter, who to our surprise won a friendship award in elementary school because she chose to play with the ‘special’ kids during gym. Or maybe it’s because my mother-in-law used to tell me about the beautiful and well-loved baby with the syndrome born to a neighbor in the fifties.

Many in the public weren’t at all accepting back in the forties, when my book starts, which added unnecessary pain to my characters’ lives. I wanted to explore and write about the additional stress public disapproval would have caused on top of the myriad medical problems that can exist.

My book has sad moments. It also has joy and people with strong convictions and determination. Writing about Down Syndrome is a relatively small part of the narrative, but to me, it had to be done.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Cleaning House

Recently I wrote about cleaning out a few closets in our house. I was surprised at how much stuff we don’t need that we have accumulated over the years. I swept the floors of the empty closets and called it a job well done. However, considering that nature abhors a vacuum, I didn’t expect the little hidden areas known as our closets to be empty for long. I was just glad the chore was done.

But now it seems there are others cleaning our house, although they are doing it on the outside. I’m quite sure they view it as their own house, or houses, depending on your viewpoint.

I am talking about birds.  Since the first nest we noticed many years ago in our wind chimes, we have had birds nesting in the nooks and crannies of our home. They seem not to need much space, a tiny sheltered area created by a window air conditioner is plenty of room for a nest. Even the upper corners of the capitals on the pillars that hold up the ceiling of our porch provide enough area for a nest that has now existed for quite a few years.

And just like when I was throwing out all kinds of things I didn’t need when I was cleaning, the birds like to have a tidy nest. They cleaned out all the detritus from last year’s nest onto our front porch. Soon the birds will be refilling their nests with soft bedding for their upcoming families.

But I will be the one sweeping the porch.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Letting Go

It seemed to be a touch ironic that when my son was helping me to clean out the attic, due to some upcoming work that needs to be done on the house, he was the one who took his 38-year-old crib mattress down to the street. For a moment I saw the little boy who once slept on that mattress, the same one who stood wearing only socks and sneakers looking out the front window of our house while his diaper was being changed. 

I no longer had the crib that his sister used after he did. It was adorable, with a Lucite headboard that had primary colored balloons on it. She always put her leg in between the slats and bent her knee, claiming to be stuck and in need of being taken out. I eventually gave the crib to my niece when she had her first child, but I learned later that she threw the crib out because the slats were too far apart for the safety standards of the time. I was somewhat miffed that she didn’t offer to return it. If she had, I would have taken it back. No doubt I would now be asking my son to take it downstairs so I could get rid of it.
After the mattress, my son pulled out the wicker-sided pram he once rode around in, in high style. The years were not kind to it.

When we cleaned out the other closets on the third floor, the ones I thought I’d been really good about not overstuffing, I rediscovered clothing I’d worn as I was entering my 20’s. I also found some fancy gowns my mother had worn. When asked about why I kept it all, I did have a reason: I thought my daughter would play a lot more dress-up than she did. Now, she’s been an adult for quite some time and there isn’t any possibility that she’s going to want to wear the bold, geometric, long, polyester double-knit dresses, even though maxi dresses still come in and out of fashion. I wouldn’t wear any of the dresses in the closet either, which also includes my wedding dress. Although that one time I wore it was totally worth it. 

My son’s way of looking at the situation was to pick up a white belt I dropped and say, “The seventies called and they want this belt back.”

We also found all the textbooks I used in college, with the exception of my calculus text which my father liked so much I gave it to him. I really didn’t miss it—I failed calculus. My husband and I saved everything else, all his books, his law books, and some other books that were popular 45 years ago. 

Why did this sad condition come about? I’m not a hoarder, but I am a Saver—in serious need of reform.
There is plenty of other junk upstairs and I’m thinking of getting rid of some of it. I know in my head as well as in my heart that I won’t lose memories just because I’m throwing out the stuff I accumulated while making those memories. How? We still have all those pictures. Carousels of slides that belonged to my parents, our own collection of slides, negatives and prints of the kids growing up and albums of them as well as our trips; boxes and boxes of it all.

My son and I did a pretty good job on the first day of our junk removal. The necessary spaces are mostly clean. But we discovered a suspicious looking nest in the corner of the crawl space. 
I’m saving that for my husband to remove.